This Monday 12th December one of Radio Ulster’s more foreword thinking programmes will be the subject of a one-hour TV documentary on BBC1 NI.
In 1986 they debuted a brand new idea of a music programme. It was called The Bottom Line and it did something that hadn’t been done before – it highlighted talent from Northern Ireland, as well as further afield.
Originally presented by Mike Edgar, it brought new local musicians and bands to our attention; gave them a special platform to showcase their work by offering them interviews or live performance on air. It showed us how much raw talent is out there and how much there is to be proud of.
It sounds a bit obvious, even old hat nowadays, something we might take for granted. But it was the pioneering spirit of The Bottom Line that brought it to life. That’s how you know a good idea – when it just seems obvious in the first place.
Thirty years later the ever adapting Across The Line (ATL) is the direct descendent of The Bottom Line, describing itself as “BBC Radio Ulster’s home for new and emerging music.” It was originally set up with a strong international focus, however in more recent years the decision was made to concentrate on music from Ireland, north and south.
“Radio Ulster doesn’t really have another show like ours that represents exclusively Irish music, or that represents the young gig goers like we do” ATL presenter Rigsy told me in a recent interview.
Take Aghagallon-based singer song writer Ciaran Lavery for example. Last month he won the 2016 NI Music Prize and has been clocking up millions of hits on Spotify over the last couple of years. As a local musician he has appeared on ATL and directly benefited from the support the programme can give ‘emerging talents.’
“ATL have a paramount importance to not only local artists and bands but also to music lovers in the discovery of home grown music” Lavery told me when I asked him about the significance of ATL. “I owe so very much to the show and the team for offering the opportunities to me over the years, exposing my music to audiences across NI. For this I am eternally grateful”
To mark 2016 as ATL’s 30th birthday year there was a celebration event in the Ulster Hall, and special radio shows dedicated to the decades that the show has spanned. The TV documentary will take this even further, charting the history of ATL through a mix of interviews, archive and new performances.
It will be narrated by Colin Murray, will hear insights from presenters past and present, and will feature new interviews with the likes of U2’s Adam Clayton, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, Neil Hannon from Divine Comedy, Therapy?, The 4 Of Us, Ash and singer/songwriter David Gray.
Being a member of these alumni isn’t something that Brendan Murphy of The 4 Of Us takes for granted. “Across the Line gave The 4 Of Us a platform in the North both at the start of our career and when we made the move from major label to independent artist” he explained. “Considering how many great new and established artists have been given airtime over the years on Across The Line it’s an honour for us to be included in this documentary.”
Catch Across The Line At 30 on Monday 12 December, BBC One N Ireland, 10.40pm